Sunday, May 24, 2015

LOVE AGAIN …North Hollywood

Here are three musical love stories, so if you don’t like one there is always the next to warm your heart. First a middle-aged couple meet after 20 years and realize they were soul-mates and have wasted their lives but, since they have spouses and children, its not exactly a love match we want to applaud.   

The next play is an alarming picture of two sweet women left brain-dead by a freak accident, but somehow they manage to be up and dancing while their grieving loved ones try to come to terms with their loss, especially when a medical expert recommends pulling the plug. 

Last is a winsome tale of a divorced elderly couple, grandpa and grandma, both suffering from extreme forgetfulness, who happily find each other in their new reality.

Outstanding in multiple roles are Lloyd Pedersen, heartbreaking as the husband called upon to dispatch his comatose wife, then utterly adorable as nutty old dad reconnecting with his ex-wife; and Michele Bernath, poignant as a concerned dead mother, then amusing as a daft old lady. 

The rest of the fine cast are Janet Wood, Paul Cady, Andrew Curtis Stark, Renee Gorsey, Debi Tinsley, Elijah Tomlinson, Kathleen Chen, Lauren Peterson and Amy Gillette. All sing with clarity and bright energy.

Book & co-lyricist Doug Haverty, music and co-lyricist Adryan Russ. Director Kay Cole keeps the actors moving to the beat. Special plaudits to Richard Berent, musical director and arranger who also amazes as a one-man orchestra.

Lonny Chapman Theatre, 10900 Burbank Blvd, NoHo, through June 28. Tickets: (818) 763-5990 or

Photos by Doug Engalla

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

4000 MILES …Los Angeles

A troubled young man who is cycling across America on a search to make sense of his life, takes refuge at his grandmothers apartment in Manhattan.

Leo is a lost soul, unable to make peace with his parents, dumped by his equivocating girlfriend and, worst of all, carrying the weight of the tragic loss of his best friend on the road. At 3 a.m. he rings grandma Vera’s doorbell where he hopes to at least find a nights rest. The dynamic between them and the healing power of a loving spirit permeates this life-enhancing story.

All of the actors are superb. Michelle Rosen as Vera avoids any dear-old-lady cliché to show us a woman who has lived fully but never succumbed to cynicism; Dan Fagan as Leo reveals his restless spirit while showing his desperate inner struggle to embrace life in the face of despair; Alexandra Johnston is poignant as Bec, his emotionally confused girlfriend, and Zoe Kim is frustratingly delightful as Amanda, a pert teasing pick-up.

Plaudits to director Gail Bernardi for the flawless pacing and sensitive interactions. The NYC rent-controlled apt set by Jim Crawford and the costumes by Kathy Dershimer are right on! Produced for the Kentwood players by Susan Goldman Weisbarth. 

Author Amy Herzog deservedly won an Obie Award and was a Pulitzer Prize finalist for this play when it premiered at Lincoln Center in 2011.

At Westchester Playhouse, 8301 Hindry Ave., L.A., through June. 
Tickets: (310) 645-5156 or

Photos by Shari Barrett. 

Also reviewed in the June issue of NOT BORN YESTERDAY

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

THE HOUSE OF YES …West Hollywood

If you have escaped from a crazy family, its not a good idea to bring your sweet naïve fiancé home to meet the folks. That’s the mistake the hero of this delightfully funny play makes, with both hilarious and horrific results. 

Playwright Wendy MacLeod wrote it over 25 years ago and it has been produced worldwide ever since, including as a film starring Parker Posey and Tori Spelling.  If you missed these incarnations, here is a chance to catch up since MacLeod’s absurdist outlook on family dynamics, mental health and gun ownership is totally current and pertinent.

Directed at full throttle by Lee Sankowich, all of the actors are superb. Leading the mad pack is Kate Maher as the cuckoo-bird twin-sister; Eileeen T'Kaye as the eccentric mother, and Nicholas McDonald as the infantile kid brother. 

Visiting are Colin McGurk as the brother not sane enough to run, and Jeanne Syquia as a young gal rather too compliant for her own good.

The suburban set by Adam Haas Hunter, well lit by Rebecca Raines, is dramatically enhanced by Norman Kern’s sound effects. Costumes by Wendell C. Carmichael and props by Natalya Zernitskaya subtly suggest the 1980’s.

Produced by Sankowich and Margie Mintz. At the Zephyr Theatre, 7456 Melrose Avenue, West Hollywood, through June 14. Tickets: (323) 960-5563 or
 Photos by EdKrieger.
Note: See my review below of MacLeod’s ‘Things Being What They Are’ now playing at the Road Theatre in North Hollywood.

Friday, May 8, 2015


In this African American household, a proudly devout older sister is having to deal with visits from an imperious bi-racial half sister, and a gay older brother who is surreptitiously bringing his white partner to their younger brothers upcoming wedding. 

The universal and familiar refrain - ‘don’t marry out of our race, or my religion, or your gender’ - creates an often-uproarious conflict throughout. Here is a new interpretation of the meaning ‘immediate family’ because, in this play, family means you belong, no matter what, and kinship is deeper than partisanship.

Shanésia Davis is Evy, the devoted teacher with high moral principles; Bryan Terrell Clark is Jesse, whose secret life has him torn between love and loyalty; Cynda Williams is Ronnie, an artist whose paintings capture the dramatic chiaroscuro of her kin; J. Nicole Brooks is Nina, a sassy neighbor and understanding friend; Mark Jude Sullivan is Kristian, a sweet-natured stranger who longs to belong, and Kamal Angelo Bolden is younger brother Tony, the reluctant but serene groom.

Playwright Paul Oakley Stovall captures the dynamic of family life, complete with its multiple contradictions. 
As director, Phylicia Rashad delightedly pulls out all the dramatic stops, as well as the comedic aspects, of sibling rivalry. 

 The elegant set by John Iacovelli, is lit by Elizabeth Harper, with sound by Joshua Horvath. Exuberant costumes by ESOSA, with wigs and hair by Carol F. Doran.
 At The Mark Taper Forum, 135 N. Grand Ave, LA, through June 7.  Tickets: (213) 628-2772 or

Photos by Craig Schwartz.

Monday, May 4, 2015


This perceptive and compassionate view of two damaged men trying to keep their lives together is at times hilarious, then bitterly sad, then deeply moving. 

There are these two guys see, new neighbors in a condo somewhere in the NYC area, one married, the other divorced. The first is polite and carefully friendly, the other a real big-mouth whose m.o. is to corner you and bray at you non-stop until you are forced to either throw him out or realize he is able to express the very feelings and agonies you have hidden from yourself. We have all been cornered by obnoxious acquaintances, who we have escaped from with a sigh of relief, but what if you discover this person you look on as annoying is the mirror image of your hidden self?

Chet Grissom is adorably obnoxious as Jack, whose brashness hides a tender soul; and Bernie Zilinskas is patience personified as Bill, who clings to a blissful past that no longer exists; while  Stephanie Erb startles in a small, but significant, role as Adele the errant wife.

Playwright Wendy MacLeod proves that there is deep drama in a series of discoveries, and the action unfolds subtly but truthfully under Andre Barron’s skilful direction.

 Adaptable set is by Stephen Gifford, with lighting by Derrick McDaniel. Produced by Michelle Gillette, Lorianne Hill and Jessica Wierzba.

At The Road Theatre, 5108 Lankershim Blvd, North Hollywood, through June 21. Tickets at (818) 761-8838 or
Photos by Michele Young. 

Also reviewed in the June issue of NOT BORN YESTERDAY.